Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Nightcrawler ★★★1/2

    Originality, in terms of Hollywood's perception, seems anomalous to say the least, and regrettably has become a peculiar language to us all. Barring few exceptions, the study of character has become a lost art; to be admired in the halls of cinematic history, only appreciated by sight, and never to be touched again. However, Louis Bloom is a man that gives us hope. He is a man that defines what it means to present a delineation of character like no other and to give rise to a darker side of human nature.

    Inner city Los Angeles is a playground for an individual of Louis Bloom's stature and psyche. It is the quintessential backdrop to reflect the inner dwellings of his mind. Restlessness, withdrawal, and loneliness, highlight Bloom's life, as we are first introduced to him as a small-time peddler.

    He can be found in the hidden darkness of night, scouring construction sites for redeemable material, in hopes that he can sell it back to another, unsuspecting construction crew. After his latest gatherings are rejected, it warrants a scene that remarkably highlights his intelligence and creepiness, as Bloom recites an oral résumé that showcases his attention to detail and his unbelievable calculatedness.

    Jake Gyllenhaal is infinitely superb in a role that requires a heavy tongue, to contrast a gloomy appearance. He channels his inner Robert De Niro, via "Taxi Driver," with his quiet, yet aggressive personality, and with a head full of black hair, slicked back to reveal a face filled with curiosity and deception. He's the type of guy who shies away from a conversation, but once indulged, will talk your head off until the sun comes up.

    The conflict surrounding Louis' life is one consisting of a struggle for human dignity--both internally and externally. After a fateful ride home finds Louis face to face with a roadside accident, a miraculous intrigue sets in upon his wandering mind, as late night renegade film crews record the misfortune (in which we are later told in so many words that blood and graphic material sells), and prepare to offer it to overnight news station management for morning ledes. Hence, an amateur business opportunity is born.

    Bloom hires an associate, in which he deems an "intern," to help him navigate the dreary and blackness enshrouded streets of late night L.A. and to watch the car while he, sometimes without positive results, attempts to film petty crimes and unfortunate incidents. This only leads to toil as Bloom inevitably schemes to work his way up the rungs of the invisible ladder of night crawler popularity, also known as "stingers," and to get his small business adequate recognition.

    A sensational directorial debut is far and few between, but Dan Gilroy, a man who is very familiar with the film process, undoubtedly has one here. His direction is a thing of beauty, as the crime scenes in which our central character receives his material brim with verisimilitude and truly create a feeling of being "there" and a heightened sense of reality. Beyond that, Gilroy has essentially created an ambiance that suits the distance of Louis' personality.

    Our anti-hero, albeit a man who is not readily acquainted with empathy, is consistently depicted in low key lighting, which only accentuates the enigmatic facets of his mien. Additionally, he is portrayed in a harsh or "hard" diffusion of light, molding the contours of his facial features through the subtle play of light and shadow. I have not seen a character so engulfed in dimness, since Michael Corleone in "The Godfather Part II."

    There is an abundance of symbolism in this picture that takes many shapes and tends to progress in intensity as the events play out in a suspenseful fashion. The director charges his symbolic ideas through musical emphasis, which culminates in one particularly brilliant scene where Bloom plays "the artist" and manipulates the remains of a vehicular homicide to produce better footage, and by the relationship of one object to another in a singular shot.

    The most notable of the latter being a scene in which an empty chair is nestled in the background, while Bloom expresses his self-loathing for failure, and a closing scene, where we are bombarded with the truth of our beloved main character's depravity--which ultimately leads us to ponder more intricately into the depths of human thought.

    Although the cinematic concern, or theme, of this film, is unquestionably one of character, it is tempting to delve deeper into the mindset of one, Louis Bloom. It would be enticing to say that he almost takes on a role larger than himself, producing a theme of the often brutal truth of human nature. His actions of depravity, which in essence is a corruption of the human soul through original sin, could be considered representative of humanity as a whole, centralizing on our fascination with gore and death, along with the startling reality that we are all selfish creatures of a brutish nature. (A staple in Protestant Reformation thought.)

    Still, the symbolic patterns and motifs (there is a strategically placed motif consisting of a billboard that reads "focus" to remind us of his obsessive mentality) guide us to the heart of this picture's intentions; the delineation of this irregular character study. And what an exhibition it is.

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